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Using an app to identify UK bird song

· Technology,Wildlife,Outdoors UK

The bird song where I live is unbelievable. I actually have my suspicions that my garden is the meeting place of the local bird choir. It's so loud, people comment on it in phone meetings. But usually the choir practice has to compete with road noise and air traffic. The clarity of that bird choir during lockdown is now amazing – they would definitely be on track to win some sort of bird version of the X Factor.

I actually call them a bird gang because they are all different species, but they hang out together – I have a robin, blue tits, starlings, black birds, chaffinch, goldfinches and a wren. They'd be the group that was put together by Simon made of all the solo singers that didn't get through. Wasn't that One Direction? Anyway...

My mum and her side of the family have always been into birds and I adore them, but for some reason I've always had a block when it comes to identifying birds calls. I can do the basics – Tawny Owl, Cuckoo, Collared Dove – but no more.

However, a chance conversation with the wonderful lady at the outdoor store where I get my dog's very specific grain-free food reignited my desire to learn. As we chatted, from a distance that was considerably more than 2 metres, she told me about apps that you can use to find out what bird is singing. Isn't technology amazing? This literally blew my mind.

An app to identify bird song – ChirpOMatic

So it turns out, there isn't just one app that does this – there are several! After browsing them in the App Store (which I hate doing by the way, how can you actually tell which app is good or not?), I settled on ChirpOMatic, which from memory might have had the most ratings...

It's very simple to use – in fact, it has been referred to as the 'Shazam for birds'. When you hear an unidentified bird, you open the app, hit the big orange button and point it in the direction of the bird song. The app then records for several seconds and then provides you with suggestions of what the bird might be. You can play the songs of the suggested feathered friends, and your own recording, in order to work out which is the most appropriate match.

This is their marketing video, which although lacking in information, is pretty real-time accurate of its use. And it amused me so much I decided it should be included.

Below you can see the list of my most recently identified birds. I've blacked out the locations. This is the internet after all.

If you don't have time to do the identification stage or you aren't sure which is closest, you can leave that for later. (I'm pretty sure the guy in the video left it until later.) In the screenshot above, that is what has happened with the orange speech bubble.

Am I now a bird song expert?

Not quite, but it's been easier than I thought to start picking out the different tones and patterns of different bird songs.

And I've made some amazing discoveries. For example, my area is full of skylarks, who sing a really wonderful musical melody as they fly. I've also come across a redstart, which I'd never even heard of before!

Nature is amazing and the more I learn about it, the more in awe I become. Learning only enhances our appreciation. Writer Robert Macfarlane says if you learn the names of things, you appreciate them more. This app helps you do that for birds and it's amazing that new technology can help us appreciate us such an essential part of the nature experience.

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